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Travis County bush

Compensation Committee suggests countywide pay increases

Thursday, March 10, 2022 by Seth Smalley

On Tuesday, Travis County’s Compensation Committee recommended funding a benchmark study to examine and eventually implement competitive pay rates for over 100 county jobs, in addition to an across-the-board pay scale increase for the 2023 fiscal year.

The two recommendations were already approved by commissioners during discussion about budget drivers, and will cost the county roughly $9.7 million to implement.

The Compensation Committee makes recommendations to the Commissioners Court each year during the budget process. So far, the committee has only presented these two recommendations, but according to Todd Osborn with the county Compensation Office, committee members are working on “a number of other items.”

Osborn said the benchmark study was “an examination of approximately 125 jobs compared to the market and then those 125 jobs are extrapolated to the rest of the classification system.”

“The committee would like for you to fund the results of this project in order to essentially keep our classification system consistent with the marketplace, particularly at a time when salaries are increasing fairly dramatically in the area,” he said.

The second recommendation was to fund an across-the-board pay grade increase for county employees that the Commissioners Court may decide for next year. Last year, commissioners chose to increase pay across the board by 3.5 percent; this year, the number is probably 3 percent.

Though committee members did not recommend a specific amount for the increase, Osborn told commissioners “they would like you to be, certainly, as generous as possible, given the current high inflation rate nationwide and also in Travis County.”

Commissioner Brigid Shea asked whether the Compensation Office had budget estimates for the pair of recommendations, and Osborn said the overhead for the benchmark study would likely be around $2.2 million.

The price tag for across-the-board increases, according to Travis Gatlin with the Planning and Budget Office, is $7.5 million, which assumes an increase of 3 percent.

“We gave staff direction to build the budget around that goal,” Shea told the Austin Monitor, referring to the 3 percent increase. “But nothing is final until we adopt the budget.”

Commissioner Ann Howard asked about the demographic makeup of the Compensation Committee. “The court wanted to make sure that there was a broad range of employees. Was that, in fact, how it turned out?” she asked.

Gatlin confirmed that the committee was revised several years ago to include more rank-and-file county employees because “before that, it was pretty top-heavy with senior management.”

“The interesting thing about this process is that we added more rank-and-file representatives to the Compensation Committee a few years back,” Shea told the Monitor. “We also flipped the process around the budget drivers and insisted that compensation had to be a budget driver.”

Previously, compensation issues were decided only after primary budget decisions had been made.

A benchmark study funded last year is currently underway for the 2022 fiscal year; the results will be presented to commissioners in June.

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